Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Quick Tip: An APH Night Before Christmas. Who else is ready for some holiday fun?

Our final Quick Tip video for the year.

APH Awards Its Highest Honor to a Deserving Member of the Field

Dr. M. Cay Holbrook Awarded APH’s 2017 Wings of Freedom Award

Photo of Cay Holbrook holding her Wings of Freedom Award.
Cay Holbrook has been an important member of the APH family for over 20 years. Her accomplishments have strongly benefited the teachers, students, and families we proudly serve. Her professional credentials as a vision teacher in several states, as vision program director and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins, associate professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and professor at the University of British Columbia, make her uniquely qualified to guide projects and author policies that make us, and our field, stronger.
Other facets of Dr. Holbrook’s amazing career include her work with the Carter Center in China, her co-creation of the biennial Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference with Janie Blome (GITWL), and countless edited and authored textbooks, articles, and curriculums, including her groundbreaking work with Alan Koenig to create the Learning Media Assessment that continues to be used internationally.
Cay has been honored throughout her career by a grateful field. Recognitions include AER’s Warren Bledsoe and Alfred Allen Awards, CECDVI’s Distinguished Service Award, GITWL’s Alan J. Koenig Research in Literacy Award, the Holbrook-Humphries Literacy Award, JVIB’s Reviewer of the Year Award, and UALR’s Faculty Excellence Award in Public Service.
In 2005, APH proudly announced Dr. Holbrook as our first Executive in Residence. Thanks to a well-earned sabbatical, Cay was able to join APH from September through November of 2006, when she primarily assisted with department of Educational Product Research projects. Among her many areas of interest were developing a research matrix – matching research topic needs of APH with possible field solutions, providing forums with department staff to discuss research techniques, working on product development, and looking at "tried and true" products with new eyes…for expanded use. One very important and timely project that Cay undertook while in residence was the creation of the company’s Expert Panel process, as required by the Department of Education. A team of nationally-drawn experts continues to meet annually to rate new products on a variety of criteria, generating a report that is sent to the federal government. Another important project that Cay offered her expertise on was APH’s flagship literacy product known as Patterns. Cay became lead consultant on this landmark effort that became Building on Patterns. Cay continues to serve as an active participant in this ongoing work.
Cay’s favorite teacher was Anne Sullivan who once shared, “I cannot explain it, but when difficulties arise, I am not perplexed or doubtful. I know how to meet them.” Cay personifies her hero, for she never appears perplexed or doubtful but seems to instinctively know how to meet the challenging tasks that lie before her. For this, a grateful field says thank you!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Here it is! December 2017 APH News!

This month, APH is transforming access as dramatically as braille did back in the 1850s with the introduction of BrailleBlaster™ software.

A Few of This Month’s Headlines:

  • APH Approaches Major Milestone
  • NEW! Color-by-Texture CIRCUS Coloring Pages
  • NEW! AnimalWatch Vi Suite (for iPad)
  • Field Tests and Surveys
  • Create your own Braille at Home!
  • APH InSights Art Competition 2018 Now Open!
  • Braille Badges Contest Deadline is Here!
  • Winner Announced! We Have a New Unforgettable APH Video Star!
  • STEM Corner
  • Social Media Spotlight
  • APH Travel Calendar and more…

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Pearl: A Throwback Thursday Object for Creating Tactile Graphics

On the seventy-sixth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, we tried to find something that applied to remember the day, but we don’t have that kind of collection.  But we do have a PEARL!  The Plate Embossing Apparatus for Raised Lines was invented and designed by APH engineer Gary Davis in 1984.  To my knowledge, only two were ever made.  The PEARL is a metal tooling machine that functioned much like a sewing machine, only instead of stitching fabric, it embosses raised lines on metal embossing plates used to create tactile graphics.  About four feet wide, the PEARL is all business with its gray paint and stainless steel hardware, so in that regard it does reflect those ships on battleship row.  The operator sat in front of the machine and fed the plate under the tooling arm.  Although most of our tactile graphics production has gone digital, we still have a PEARL ready to produce plates for jobs that run on our Heidelberg Presses.

Photo Caption (The Plate Embossing Apparatus for Raised Lines)
Micheal Hudson
Museum Director, APH

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Braille: A Foundation for the Future


Braille: A Foundation for the Future
by Craig Meador, President, APH
Photo shows a boy reading braille.

Technology has been a boon for everyone and people who are blind or visually impaired have benefited a great deal from the availability of, and perhaps, more importantly, the efforts to make technology fully accessible.  There are more ways to learn and access information and entertainment than ever before, thanks to these advances in technology. While this has provided great cause for celebration (believe me, we at APH are the biggest fans) it has also come with some misinformation and incorrect assumptions about the need for braille.  Let me begin by saying these advances will not take the place of braille as e-readers will never entirely replace printed materials.

Braille is an established form of communication used by people around the world who are blind and visually impaired. Braille is essential to literacy, because it incorporates all the elements of the printed word, including spelling and punctuation. Although screen readers and audiobooks provide people who are blind or visually impaired additional ways to access information, braille is foundational for lifelong learning.

At the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), we see evidence that braille is alive and well every day. We’re printing more braille pages than ever before. We’re filling more orders for braille teaching tools than in the past. And more for-profit companies are coming to us for braille printing services. That’s due, in part, to hard-fought laws that require companies to provide braille materials as part of making their information accessible to everyone.

At APH, we’re so confident about the importance and future of braille that we recently introduced BrailleBlaster™, a revolutionary new software tool that translates text into braille quickly, easily, and accurately. When we started this project, our goal was to provide a tool that made it possible for every child to have braille materials on the first day of school. Braille textbooks are widely used in schools, but it can take weeks or months to produce braille materials using manual braille transcription. BrailleBlaster efficiently converts print into braille so students who are blind or visually impaired can have their textbooks on the first day of class.

BrailleBlaster’s innovative technology will help put students who are blind or visually impaired on equal footing with their sighted peers—letting them show everyone that they can achieve just as much as anyone else, if they’re given equal access to information. Best of all, BrailleBlaster can be downloaded absolutely free by braille transcribers, teachers, students, businesses, community organizations, and of course, parents at By providing BrailleBlaster for free, APH is hoping to expand access to braille around the world to unprecedented levels.

There’s plenty of other evidence that braille is here to stay.  Several groups are creating full page braille displays and graphic tablets and braille technology is getting more and more affordable. The Orbit Reader 20 will be the first refreshable braille device you can purchase for less than $500, making braille access through technology even more widespread around the globe.

At APH, we believe in braille. We know it’s crucial to literacy and independence. Please hear me clearly on this point.  We are not saying that other technology, such as screen readers that now come standard with many devices, like the iPhone, or the AI advances that read signs and materials to you aren’t important options. We’ll always support the availability of new technology that helps make information more accessible and promotes independence. But this technology’s place is alongside braille—as a complement, not a replacement.

 We are on the cusp of a braille revolution. With better access to transcription, the support of accessibility laws, the hard work of good teachers, the advent of affordable braille technology and the advocacy of parents and professionals we are poised to see braille elevated in schools, workplaces, homes, and communities like never before. APH is proud to be a part of this revolution, and we look forward to sharing the exciting days ahead with all of you.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Fundraising Poster for Rochester Eye Bank

Our object this week is a fundraising poster for the Rochester Eye Bank.  "Mommy! I can See Again! “ is printed on the yellow poster with a black-and-white illustration of a young girl holding a rag doll.  The Rochester Eye-Bank and Research Society was founded by the Rochester Downtown Lions Club in 1952 to retrieve and store eyes for corneal transplants and research.  The first successful cornea transplant occurred in 1905 in Europe, but the creation of eye banks to store eye tissue was critical to the success of the endeavor.  The first eye bank in the U.S. was founded in 1944 in New York City.  The eye bank in Rochester closed its doors in 2015.
Micheal Hudson
Museum Director, APH

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Your #GivingTuesday Donation Can Make Dreams Come True


Your #GivingTuesday donation can make dreams come true

by Craig Meador, APH President
Photo: Portrait of Dr. Craig Meador

Everyone has dreams. That’s one of the many ways people who are blind or visually impaired are exactly the same as people who are typically sighted. We all have dreams and hope we can make them come true.

People who are blind or visually impaired dream of getting an education, going to college, and maybe earning an advanced degree. They dream of jobs that bring them satisfaction and independence. They dream of participating in their communities and our society. They dream of achieving everything they set out to do—just like everyone else.

At APH, all our work centers around making these dreams possible, and providing people who are blind or visually impaired with the products and educational resources they need to fulfill those dreams. Although we’re a nonprofit organization, we’re also a business—not a wish factory—so we have to operate within the confines of budgets and organizational objectives.

We’re grateful for the grants and government funding we receive to help us create educational, workplace, and independent living products and services for people who are blind or visually impaired. But those funds aren’t enough to cover all of our costs, so the generosity of individual donors is essential to helping us make more dreams come true.  

Donations help us maintain programs like Braille Tales, which ensures that toddlers who are visually impaired receive their first braille book to read with their parents, at no cost. Donations help us continue the research and development that results in new technology like Graphiti that lets students finish school at the same pace as their sighted peers and gives people who are blind or visually impaired the same career opportunities as everyone else. Donations help us continue our work to change public attitudes so people of all ages who are blind or visually impaired can be independent and make valuable contributions to our society.

If you have already donated to APH, we’re very grateful for your support of the work we do. If you’ve never made a donation to APH before—or you want to donate more—Giving Tuesday is a great day to do so. Donations in any amount will bolster our mission to improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired.

Giving is the engine of the work we do at APH, and your donation will empower more people who are blind or visually impaired to pursue their dreams. Thank you for helping us make those dreams come true.
Photo: Giving Tuesday Logo

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Your Wish List for Accessible Cities

A Wish List for Accessible Cities

by Craig Meador, President, APH

At the American Printing House for the Blind, we believe accessibility is for everyone, everywhere. But as we all know, most cities and communities aren’t fully accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. APH wants to change that, and we took a big step forward by asking people who are blind or visually impaired what they want and need to navigate the world independently.
Over the summer, we conducted a survey at major field conferences asking participants to give us their definition of an accessible city and community. We interviewed 397 people, including those who are blind and visually impaired, as well as caregivers, family members, and practitioners in the field. We also received 436 online survey responses, making this the largest study of this topic to date.

First, I want to thank everyone who participated in our survey. Our vision of creating fully accessible communities — like the Accessible Louisville plan we’re already working on — won’t be a reality without your input and support. Your participation was invaluable.

I’d also like to share a little bit about what we learned. You told us you want all-inclusive cities that make true independence possible for everyone. You want auditory and haptic pedestrian signals at every stoplight, with vocal feedback about crossing times and directions. You want beacons to read signs independently in public buildings, braille signage, and armor tile on all blended curb cutouts. You need more accessible solutions for transportation and shopping.

Those are just a few of the things on your wish list for a fully accessible community. Now, we’ll be using what we learned from the survey to do even more research and explore partnerships with other organizations. We’ll also continue with our Accessible Louisville plan that will not only make our home city more accessible but will create a template for other cities to follow. This plan includes a 20-location pilot project of APH’s indoor navigation technology, Nearby Explorer Online with Indoor Explorer™.

 If you participated in our survey, we want you to know that your perspective is guiding our accessibility priorities. We’ll keep listening to what you have to say; you will hear much more from us about this topic.

APH has always been committed to breaking down barriers to learning and living. Now our classrooms are everywhere in this wide, changing world, with opportunities to explore and discover that belong to everyone. Thank you for being part of our work and helping us shape the future of accessibility.

For questions about APH's accessible communities initiative, please email
Top photo shows a man navigating a library with Indoor Explorer on a smartphone; bottom photo shows a talking street crossing unit.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Perkins Details a Catastrophic Event from 1917 that Changed the Treatment of Blindness

On the morning of December 6th, 1917, a French cargo ship loaded with explosives collided with a Norwegian freighter in the harbor of Halifax Canada.  The resulting explosion killed about 2,000 people and the flying glass that resulted from thousands of windows blown out by the pressure wave injured the eyes of almost six thousand people and blinded 41 permanently.  The large number of eye injuries turned out to an important event in both medical care for eye injuries and rehabilitation efforts for people who are blind.  This week the archives at the Perkins School for the Blind commemorates the centennial of this awful event and its aftermath by posting documents that tell the story.  Perkins has several other online exhibits that are equally fascinating.
Photo caption: View of the Halifax Harbor area after the explosion. Every tree and building in sight is shattered and broken. Everything is covered in snow.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: An Early Math Aid

Our object this week is a wooden frame with small compartments in a twenty by thirty grid.  There are metal types with a raised Arabic numeral on the end that fit into the “cells.”  Originally called an Arabic Slate, this style of math aid was developed in Paris, France in the 19th century.  One source from 1910 called it the Paris Method.  This particular model, known as an Arithmetic Type Frame, was developed in 1936 at APH as an instructional aid for working problems in long division, multiplication, subtraction, and addition.   The supplied lead type was called Philadelphia Great Primer Type.  In 1959, APH introduced the Texas slate to replace the Arithmetic Type Frame.
Photo Captions: First Photo: The eight inch by thirteen inch Arithmetic Type Frame had 600 “cells.”
The second image shows you a close-up of the raised number types.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director


Wednesday, November 08, 2017

November 2017 APH News

This month, APH is transforming access as dramatically as braille did back in the 1850s with the introduction of BrailleBlaster™ software.
A Few of This Month’s Headlines:

  • Blasting Braille Into the Future
  • NEW! Increasing Complexity Pegboard
  • NEW! Large Magnetic/Dry-Erase Board
  • NEW! DeafBlind Pocket Communicator
  • NEW! Braille Datebook, 2018
  • Field Tests and Surveys
  • 2017 Wings of Freedom Award
  • Some Daring Adventurers from Annual Meeting 2017!
  • Essay Contest Coming Soon - APH 160th Anniversary!
  • APH InSights Art Competition 2018 Now Open!
  • Social Media Spotlight
  • APH Travel Calendar and more…

Quick Tip: Reach And Match Learning Kit. The Reach and Match Learning Kit is an innovative system for students with sensory impairment and other special needs to help them learn while engaging with their peers.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Cabinet of Printer's Type

Did you ever wonder why we call capital letters “upper case” and non-capitals “lower case”?  They are printing terms.  From the origins of printing, Mr. Gutenberg and all that, some poor fellow had to sit with a “case” of printing type and lay out the page in a frame called a “galley” one letter at a time.  The capitals were in the top drawers of the case and so on.  Our object today is a cabinet of printer’s type.  The angled top allowed the typesetter to place his galley frame there while he loaded it with type from the drawers, or maybe rest a drawer there while he unloaded a previously used arrangement.  APH used type in several ways.  In more modern times, we used traditional type to print labels on book spines and Talking Book records.  In our early days, we used specialized type to manufacture raised letter books, the tactile books that preceded braille.
(Photo Caption:  Forty-four inch tall wooden case with space for twenty-four drawers, each drawer is about an inch high and is divided into many small compartments filled with printer’s type.)
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: The Calculaid

Our object this week is one of my favorites, a math tool from the 1960s.  Andrew F. Schott, a math professor at Marquette University, developed an elementary school mathematics curriculum known as individualized mathematics in the mid-1950s which was adopted by schools all over the country.  In the early 1960s, the research department at APH began studying the possibility of adapting Schott's system in schools for the blind.  An abacus developed by Schott, the Numberaid, and a number of other devices, the Calculaid, Measureaid (a ruler and protractor), Fractionaid, and Geometraid were eventually listed in the APH catalog.  Pictured here is the Calculaid, basically a white plastic board with ten rows of six plastic wheels.  The “wheels” are actually ten sided, brailled to represent zero to nine.  A frame at the top of the Calculaid held your “Numberaid.”  APH was always looking at new trends in education and testing their adaptation for students who were blind or visually impaired.  Parts of Schott’s apparatus remained in the APH catalog until 1979, but research about the system’s effectiveness was inconclusive.
Captions:  First photo is a Calculaid with its ten rows of six plastic wheels.  Second photo is a black and white image from the APH catalog, with the Numberaid, a plastic abacus, snapped into place.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Quick Tip: Pegs and Pegboard. Get your students’ attention and foster visual development, eye-hand coordination, awareness of spatial relationships, and matching and sequencing skills with the Pegs and Pegboard!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Braille Pin Board

Our object this week is a braille pin board which belonged to a home teacher of blind students in Connecticut named Corrine Delesdernier.  She attended the Perkins School in Watertown, Massachusetts and died in 1957.  Her wooden frame contains a brass board with 225 perforated braille cells in a fifteen by fifteen grid.  The rows are numbered in braille one to fifteen and the columns are lettered “A” through “O”. A cloth cushion on the right stores push pins that can be used to create raised braille symbols. Most of the pins have white, round plastic heads; a few are steel pins with clear glass heads.  I have most often seen these types of boards used to create braille crossword puzzles.  The Royal National Institute for the Blind in England sold a similar design in its 1933 catalog.  The frame of the pin board is clearly stamped “PERKINS INST FOR THE BLIND” although it is not clear if it was made at Perkins or purchased by them.
Caption: Braille Pin board
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Quick Tip: APH Annual Meeting 2017. The APH Annual Meeting is like a yearly homecoming for those in the blindness field, giving us opportunities to catch up, meet new people, and network with old friends and acquaintances.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

October 2017 APH News

APH News is your monthly link to the latest information on the products, services, field tests, and training opportunities from the American Printing House for the Blind.

This week, visitors to APH’s 149th Annual Meeting will be able to navigate inside the Louisville International Airport using the new Indoor Explorer feature of our Nearby Explorer™ app for iOS®!

 A Few of This Month’s Headlines:

  • Indoor Navigation at Annual Meeting
  • NEW! Indoor Explorer
  • NEW! NewT Kit
  • NEW! Early Braille Trade Books: Rigby PM Platinum—UEB
  • NEW! Math Flash (Action for Google Home/Google Assistant)
  • Field Tests and Surveys
  • In Memoriam: Remembering Jack Decker
  • NEW! Handy Overview of Building on Patterns
  • Accessible Appliances: GE, Firstbuild, and an Inventive Young Man
  • Social Media Spotlight
  • APH Travel Calendar and more…

Monday, October 09, 2017

LOOK! The New Online Tool for Improving Reading Skills of Individuals with CVI

What Is It?

In its blog, CVI Scotland introduces us to its new online tool, Look, which people with CVI can use to learn to read or improve their existing reading skills. Here is a portion of CVI Scotland’s description of Look:

Look is a reading tool created by CVI SCOTLAND, with multiple functions and settings, designed to make reading easier for people with CVI. Look can be used for all levels of reader, from a non-reader learning to read, to an experienced reader wanting specific settings to read faster and more comfortably.

Look enables the user to insert any text (up to 10,000 words), and adjust the settings, to read a single word on an uncluttered screen, and either change each word manually, or set the speed for Look to present the words automatically at your comfortable reading speed.

You may view one word at a time on the screen or view as much as one sentence at a time. Look contains a host of settings, some of which may be unfamiliar. It is quite likely that each user will prefer differing settings, so experimentation is strongly encouraged. This information about settings should enable anyone to gain a better understanding of what each setting does.

Look’s Flexibility

You can use Look on tablets, computers, and smartphones. It is designed to limit visual clutter on the screen; nevertheless, it is best to make the surrounding environment as free of distractions as possible. Use the tool in a quiet place with little or no visual or auditory distractions to increase its effectiveness.

Reading with Recognition

CVI Scotland also provides a short, handy list of tips for improving the reading ability of individuals with CVI. Check out the Reading with Recognition tutorial to determine if their suggestions may improve the literacy skills of anyone you work with who has CVI.

CVI Scotland reminds us that each individual’s situation is unique, making it difficult to determine what settings and suggestions will work best for individual students. For this reason, CVI Scotland has created this flexible tool with many configurable settings while including the tips mentioned above.

Look is free to use. You can click the following link to start using it. When you do, you should locate a “Click here to start using Look” button. When you select it, you should find all of the settings that you can change and the tool on the screen.

There is nothing to download. Bookmark the website or save it to your favorites so you have quick access to it. Check out this link to read the summary provided by CVI Scotland, access additional information, and try the Look tool. Please share this post or the link provided in our social media posts, and let us know, through any of these channels, how the tool works for you. Also remember that APH offers a thorough and informative website dedicated to CVI at

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Triformation BD-3 Embosser

The BD-3 was Triformation's first braille embosser, released in 1971. The BD-3 was the first commercially available digital braille embosser in the U.S.  On the outside it looks like a normal American Tourister suitcase.  On the inside you get the deluxe mid-century faux woodgrain table with a reel of paper tape, a covered embossing head, and a small row of switches, lights, and jacks.  It was described as a "braille verifier," producing braille copy on paper tape as regular copy was typed, either by a teletype machine, or a computer terminal.  It weighed 15 pounds and cost $1,850.  Triformation's full sheet embosser, the LED-120, became available in June 1974, and although more expensive, $9,000, it was much more popular.
This example was obtained by Howard Goldstein while studying computer science at the University of Connecticut in 1976.  It was connected to a Teletype Model 33 teleprinter, producing braille on paper tape as the teleprinter produced print.  According to Goldstein, he did not use the BD-3 very much.  He found moving from the teleprinter keyboard to read the tape was too awkward and slow. It was faster to have someone read out the output of the teletype than use the BD-3.
Photo Caption: The Triformation BD-3 Embosser fit into a small American Tourister suitcase and embossed on paper tape.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: G-4 Obstacle Detector

Blind since boyhood, Thomas A. Benham earned his doctorate in electrical engineering from Penn and taught physics and math at Haverford College until he retired in 1976. In 1950, he began working under contract with the Veterans Administration to evaluate the Signal Corps Obstacle Detector, a pioneering electronic travel aid.  In 1953, Haverford subcontracted further investigations to Biophysical Instruments, Inc., whose lead investigator, Malvern Benjamin, worked with Benham to develop three different prototype obstacle detectors based upon the same principles as the Signal Corps model.  All three used reflected light to detect obstacles/objects in the direction ahead of the user.  The G-4 was an early model which apparently never made it past the prototype stage. About half the size of a box of cereal, its brown Bakelite case has two large lenses on the front, a heavy battery in its base, and an angled handle with a crystal knob on the top that would vibrate when an obstacle was detected.  The G-4 is part of the museum’s Warren Bledsoe O&M Archives.
Photo Caption:  Brown Bakelite handheld obstacle detector.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Tactile Poker Chips

Have you ever seen tactile poker chips?  They have been making braille playing cards for more than a hundred years, so I guess it makes sense that you need accessible chips too.  These plastic red, white, and blue chips came in the traditional round, an octagon, and a scalloped round.  We found them on ebay, but I don’t know any other history.  Send us your stories of any tactile chips you have used. Add comments to this post or to the accompanying posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Spine Chase

Our museum collection contains over 230 years of products for people that are blind or visually impaired, but it also contains a lot of interesting manufacturing and printing history.  Our object this week is a specialty tool used to emboss the print gold leaf spine labels on our braille books.  A “chase” is a frame used to hold printers type in a printing press.  The type was set by hand and the screw handle tightened until the type was locked in place.   The type chase was then slid into a book case stamping machine.  It was probably custom made, either for APH locally, but more likely directly in the APH machine shop sometime around 1960.
Captions: First Photo, Steel table on the chase has a fixed lip on one side and an adjustable lip on the other tightened with a hand screw.
Second Photo: The green linen spine of the American Vest Pocket Dictionary from 1969 shows a gold leaf label stamped with the spine chase.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: A-74 Talking Book Machine

Our object this week is a common Talking Book phonograph from around 1974.  I really like the bright colors that the NLS was using back then.  This one is green and the speaker is mounted in its removable lid.  The passage of the Pratt-Smoot Act in 1931 created the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.  The act was amended in 1933 to include talking book service.  The WPA began manufacturing talking book machines for the NLS in 1935.  The first commercially purchased machines were bought by NLS in 1947.  The first transistorized machines, like this one, appeared in 1968.  Three speeds appeared in 1970.  This example was owned by Eva Morton, an alumni of the Kentucky School for the Blind.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Swail Dot Inverter

Ever since Louis Braille adapted his “Braille Tablet” to write his system, people have been bothered by the downward writing involved in using a braille slate and stylus.  In order to read braille that you write on a standard slate, you have to turn the paper over, so you have to reverse both the direction you write and the characters as you write them.  There have been a lot of different efforts to overcome this perceived deficiency, but I’m not going into that here.  Our object this week is a Swail Dot Inverter, introduced by APH in 1965.  It is a humble little aluminum stylus with a faceted handle and a hollow tipped steel blade.  When not in use, you can store the blade in the handle.  It was designed to emboss raised dots, useful for constructing simple tactile graphics.  You can still buy one!  Although the Swail works with paper, it seems to give the best results with plastic Brailon paper from American Thermoform, which also appeared in the APH catalog for the first time in 1965.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Friday, August 11, 2017

August 2017 APH News

A Few of This Month’s Headlines:

Coming in August: MATT Connect
  • NEW! Bear Hunt - UEB; Indoor Explorer; Explorer Bright Ray; and ECC Icon Poster
  • Order Fall 2017 Textbooks Now!
  • Field Tests and Surveys
  • “A Daring Adventure Awaits” at the 2017 APH Annual Meeting of Ex Officio Trustees and Special Guests!
  • Braille Badges Contest Begins This September
  • STEM Corner
  • Treasure From the Migel Library
  • Social Media Spotlight
  • APH Travel Calendar and more…

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: The Talking Wallet

The talking wallet recognized paper bills and announced their value.  It was developed by the Boston Information & Technology Corporation in cooperation with the American Foundation for the Blind(AFB).  In a 1992 edition of AFB's Braille Monitor, BIT’s President, Mohymen Saddeek, reported that roughly 150 were manufactured before the company failed in a dispute over the product.
There are many tools that supply a voice reading of the information normally gained by sight. Such aids include the talking scale, clock, watch, timer, blood-pressure monitor, thermometer, blood-glucose monitoring kit, talking wallet, label makers, calculators, and computer-speech output.
Photo caption:  The Talking Wallet was black plastic, about 4x6 inches, and opened up to accept the paper bill.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Flyer Announcing a Concert by Students from "The Perkins Institution for the Blind" from 1873!

Our object this week is a small paper broadside from 1873.  In bold print letters it proclaims the appearance of “Mr. J.N. Marble and his associates from the Perkins Institution for the Blind” for a “Concert at Town Hall.”  These were likely pasted up all over town and handed out on the street.  John N. Marble was a student from Massachusetts at Perkins between 1868 and 1871.  Samuel Gridley Howe, the superintendent at Perkins, regularly exhibited his students all over the country, but this show was a money making venture.  It cost a quarter to get in.  We can’t be sure whether “Town Hall,” where the program was staged, was the Old City Hall in Boston or in some other community.  The repertoire featured a variety of popular tunes, primarily American, and concluded with “America,” although that song was not the “America the Beautiful” so familiar today.  That old favorite was not published until 1910.

Photo caption:  Nine by six inch concert flyer with a program listing

Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind


Monday, July 31, 2017

Use the OrCam to Identify Objects, Read Print and More!

The following article comes from Hannah Ziring of OrCam Technologies. I have read about this device, viewed YouTube videos about it, and saw it in action very briefly at one of the summer conventions. You may find the device quite useful for the reasons listed in the article.
Glasses for a Person Who is Blind
The OrCam device is a smart camera that sits on the user’s glasses and reads text aloud to people who are visually impaired or blind.
While the OrCam device is not exactly “
glasses for blind person
”, it definitely looks that way. The device is so small and discreet, it is barely noticeable.
Besides its compact size, there are many amazing OrCam features that make the device unique and accessible.
Easy to use: OrCam MyEye is an intuitive wearable device with a smart camera that clips onto a regular pair of glasses and is able to 'read' text and convert it into speech relaying the message to the user. The device is activated by a simple intuitive gesture – pointing your finger or pressing a single button.
Using OCR - optical character reading - technology, the device can read printed materials on almost any surface such as newspapers, books, computer screens, menus and more.
Portable: Many people who are visually impaired or blind have to carry around a heavy magnifying glass to read text. The OrCam MyEye is small and light and simply attaches to the right side of the user’s glasses frame. The camera weighs ¾ of an ounce and has a thin wire, easily hidden behind the ear, which connects to the base unit or “brain” of the device. The base unit is about the size of a cellphone and can easily sit in one’s pocket or on a belt strap.
Wearable: “You are what you wear.” Wearable technologies have grown tremendously in the past few years. Smart electronic devices that can be worn on the body are practical and discreet. The OrCam is no exception. the device is so discreet that it can barely be seen by others allowing the user to fit in with the crowd.
Privacy: Unlike other OCR technologies, the OrCam does not require a scanner connected to a computer or internet connection. All the information stored in the device is private and only accessible to the user.
Independence: For people who are visually impaired or blind and have conditions that cannot be corrected by glasses or surgery, the OrCam MyEye can be life-changing. Who would have thought that this little camera situated on a pair of glasses could help people who are blind or visually impaired regain their independence.
To contact OrCam, 1350 Broadway, Suite 1600 New York, NY 10018. Phone: 1-800-713-3741 or visit their website where you can request a demo and join their email list.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Humble Wooden Workstand

Our object this week is a humble wooden workstand, made and used here at the American Printing House and painted a nice industrial gray.  Historic photographs show similar custom-made tables in a variety of shapes and sizes used as work stands in a number of processes around the building.  In this picture of the stereograph room where embossing plates were made, you can see a table much like this one in the left foreground.   These tables are an endangered species around APH today.  A few years ago our production department installed a Kaizen construction area where our production staff can put together special purpose tables and materials carts in a jiffy from metal tubes and particle board.  I guess you could say that these old work tables were the Kaizen equivalent of their day.
In the second photo, probably from 1950 or so, office manager Jane Kent guides a group of well-dressed ladies on a tour of the stereograph room at APH.  A transcriber sits in front of a stereograph, translating braille onto metal embossing plates.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Monday, July 24, 2017

Fully Audio Music Lessons for People Who Are Blind


We received an email recently regarding a site dedicated to teaching basic music lessons to people who are blind. some audio music lessons existed in the National Library Service (NLS) catalog, but not many people spoke about them, perhaps causing some people to think that they no longer were available.

Music for the Blind

Although this site is not new, two things make it stand out. First, the site offers basic lessons for more than a dozen instruments. For a number of years, the available lessons mostly were for guitar and piano alone. Some of these lessons, though not all of them, became available on NLS. Second, all of the lessons are done totally by ear; there is no print, braille, video, or music notation.

The teacher describes techniques totally by ear. You hear what the instructor is doing and, after some instruction, are asked to do what he does. The lessons come on CDs, tapes, in some instances, and downloadable audio files. There also is a place on the homepage to sign up for email updates.

Important Accessibility Notes

Before we discuss the lessons in some more detail, there are a few accessibility issues you need to understand. If you do not run into these issues, you can navigate the site with ease; if you do encounter them, however, the below explanation should help you find what you’re looking for on the site.

There is an accessibility sidebar which JAWS shows immediately. This sidebar seems to handle font size and be useful for persons with low vision. At first review with JAWS and Internet Explorer, below this sidebar, you may see only the email signup edit fields and some basic information about the site. You must look for a menu and expand that menu with the space bar. Below that first menu is a second one you must expand in the same way. (You do not have to take these steps with Firefox and JAWS).

Here’s how you expand the menus. As you scroll, you hear, “Top menu navigation.” Press the down arrow key one time; open the menu that gains focus with the space bar. You may have to refresh your screen (hit the JAWS key plus escape to do this with JAWS) before you notice the new links that opening up the menu should display.

After you see a few links, you hear, “Child menu”, and you will be told if that menu is expanded or collapsed. Move to that menu with one press of the down arrow key and expand it with the spacebar to see all remaining links. Again, remember that you likely will have to take these steps using Internet Explorer and probably will not have to do so with Firefox.

Tell Me What I Will Find!

Examples of the courses covered on this site include piano courses, guitar courses,  and drum lessons. However, these are only three of the 13 current course types available. Note that some of the piano and guitar courses are available for download from the BARD site from NLS. Not all of these courses may be available from NLS, however, so please check with the Music for the Blind site and sign up for their emails to see a full list of current courses and to hear about new ones as they are added.

How Do the Courses Work?

When you open up the page that describes one of the course types, you will find one or more brief audio samples. Listen using the accessible audio player, and you will get a feel for how the lessons work. Remember, all lessons are audio only—no video, print, braille, or musical notation!

To buy any course, open the menus, and select the course you want to purchase by clicking its link. You will find the links immediately below the audio samples. Click the one you want and select checkout. Links for each course are clearly labeled and include the price and the media you will receive. Note: You must create an account to complete your purchase. If you have problems accessing the site or would rather speak to someone directly, you can call 888-778-1828. We wish you success with learning to play a new instrument or with improving your existing skills.

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The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

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